Malibu Media Maelstrom Ensues as Paparazzi Dominate News Coverage
BY ANNE SOBLE
During a weekend when record-breaking temperatures dominated the news, two Malibu beach brawls made headlines around the world and have many locals scratching their heads and wondering whether the hot weather may have been affecting the media.
Residents have been voicing concern that an erroneous picture of an event has now been repeated so many times by so many media that it has assumed a life of its own. They say this, while in no way condoning what may be construed to be unseemly behavior by people who live here.
Basically the facts for anyone who has had no electronic contact with the world in the last six days is that rowdy donnybrooks occurred on Point Dume beaches on Saturday and Sunday.
The melees have been dubbed by celebrity websites as clashes between “the paparazzi” and “the surfers.” That these sites might favor the paparazzi could have something to do with their dependence on them for content.
The incidents, the first of which ostensibly erupted as actor Matthew McConaughey was surfing off Little Dume, are alleged to have resulted in one broken nose and camera gear damages estimated at over $10,000.
Videos of the skirmishes have been replayed endlessly on these websites and have either been given or sold to nearly every major media outlet, most of which appear to use them without questioning their authenticity.
The Little Dume video appears edited to slur locals who sought to evict the paparazzi from the dry sand at the beach. There has been little play of some photographers doing the filming reportedly urging their comrades to “keep going” as “this is good stuff.”
Some locals are asking whether the paparazzi, knowing that their aggressive behavior has been in the news lately, decided to take the makings of a tense situation and spin them to their advantage.
Several of the people at the beach, a mix of Point Dume residents and visitors, many of whom would hardly fit the notion of the stereotypical surfer, currently decline attribution because there is concern about litigation against individuals and the property owners association that has the private beach easement where the first brawl took place.
The Riviera II Property Owners Association, one of the groups that oversee the beach key access to Little Dume Beach, held a closed meeting Monday night to address some of the legal issues that might have been raised.
A number of the citizens who were involved in the clashes are in the process of filing police reports of their own. At least one of them, a lifelong Malibuite, has brought local attorney Michael Schwimer on board to begin to address what they say is an imbalance in the outside media’s coverage of the event.
Schwimer said, “The real story is still coming out. The rest of the media have taken the paparazzi’s spoon-fed story and run with it. They have done no investigations of what happened.”
He acknowledges that some of the group called the surfers, who should more accurately be described as a group of beachgoers, “may have been pushed so hard that they pushed back.” But he is adamant that “the video is so heavily edited to mischaracterize the situation and portray the Malibu residents as aggressors, when in fact it was the opposite.”
Schwimer said it is damning that mainstream media would take “obviously edited” video “at face value,” even “picking up the same inaccurate labels of paparazzi and surfers” as used by the celebrity websites. The terms repeatedly appear in print headlines and broadcast references.
The Malibu Surfside News has received undisclosed information that a knife was drawn by a paparazzo. A report that one of the residents at the scene had a wound that required five stitches has been confirmed. And tripods were recorded being used as weapons.
The team of investigators from the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station has been trying to obtain copies of the original videotapes but has been unsuccessful.
Schwimer says what was happening at both beach locations is “a public safety issue.” He says the state paparazzi legislation that is on the books should be enforced, adding that an emphasis on “disturbing the peace and public nuisance” is imperative.
The attorney said he is beginning to question whether there was “an element of purposefulness” in the Little Dume fracas, as “facts suggest an effort to capitalize” on the situation by filming it.
Schwimer said there are currently several Web postings about “another round” to take place at the beach on Saturday, June 28. “There appears to be a real intention to promote violence.”
He added that some of the photographers from the incident have reportedly obtained the telephone numbers of some of the beachgoers and have begun to make “threatening phone calls.”
Mainstream media scorn the paparazzi and differentiate them from professional journalists. Their coverage of the Malibu beach brouhahas demonstrate that the line between them is blurring.
As for McConaughey, he continued to surf unaware of what was happening the first day until he learned about it later. He also hit the waves the next day, albeit some distance from the second clash at Paradise Cove.
His publicist Alan Nierob said the incidents will not dissuade the actor from surfing, and “he will continue to enjoy the beautiful Malibu coastline.”